#churchtoo movement hopes to expose sexual abuse from religious leaders

SALT LAKE CITY - Social media effort to expose sexual abusers now includes religious leaders

The Twitter handle #churchtoo hopes to expose religious leaders the same way #metoo has called out famous people in other professions. People are using the handle to share very personal stories about being abused by religious leaders or in religious settings.

DeAnne Tilton said the movement is important to encourage survivors of sexual abuse to speak out and heal. She says her father was also her spiritual leader, and started molesting her when she was six-years-old.

“I knew what was going on and that I knew it was wrong but the person harming me was supposed to know better than me,” said Tilton. “Just claiming your truth is part of healing.”

The Rape Recovery Center offers help for sexual abuse survivors who want to go public, or remain anonymous.

“I think that’s what’s so powerful about the #metoo and the #churchtoo is that it is bringing to light and saying this is not ok and people should have accountability,” said Stephanie Murguia, Rape Recover Center Outreach and Access Coordinator. “Anytime sexual violence is mixed with the most intimate and powerful parts of someone’s identify whether that’s spirituality or anything that really hurts people.”

All religious institutions condemn child sexual abuse, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. Standing Together is associated with nearly one hundred protestant and evangelical churches in Utah, and hopes the social media movement will help reduce the number of victims being hurt.

“It is a matter of great concern and it cannot be tolerated,” said Rev. Gregory Johnson, President of Standing Together. "It is sin. It’s wrong. I don’t care where it happens or who does it any perpetrator of this kind of sexual violence against a woman or against a child is reprehensible in God’s word and cannot and should not be accepted.”

The #churchtoo movement also takes aim at the purity culture, that promotes women being responsible for all sexual matters.

“Historically the stigma has always gone to person who has been harmed and it doesn’t go where it belongs to the person who has done the harm,” added Tilton.

In Tilton’s case, the clergy leader placed the blame where it belonged---on her father. “When he found out about this, he didn’t tell me to repent which I appreciate because I was eight-years old at the time,” said Tilton. “He told my dad to repent.”

Information and resources can be found at https://www.raperecoverycenter.org/ or http://talktoasurvivor.org/about-us/.